Who should skip over the basic economy fares?
While basic economy might work well for people who know how to pack light, or don’t mind a middle seat, it might not be optimal for everyone. In fact, it’s going to be not-great for lots of travelers.
“Let’s say there’s a destination I go to with my family, and now I have these transatlantic fares aggressively priced, so now we can have a new experience for the same price or cheaper,” Spagnola says. “It comes down to asking ‘How does this destination compare to a place I’d usually fly into?’ And how does that compare to an experience flying basic economy to Europe?”
The key word here is experience. If flying is part of your overall travel “experience,” basic economy will be the part of the trip you likely try to forget.
“The trick is understanding what you’re getting when you pay a rock-bottom fare,” says Gabe Saglie, a senior editor at Travelzoo. “You’re giving up creature comforts, and you don’t get a free checked bag. And remember, you’re boarding last, so there’s a chance you’ll be squeezed out of the overhead bin space. People don’t always consider that.”
They also don’t consider the contingencies. Say you get stuck on a tarmac for three hours. This is when you’d want a bigger seat. Or some dang food. You might also end up in a middle seat all the way from Atlanta to Athens, which might not cross your mind as you sit behind a computer in a comfortable chair comparison shopping online.
“Streamlined travelers who are used to fending for themselves for food or entertainment, or who aren’t particular about where they sit will benefit the most from this,” Saglie says. “When I’m traveling nine to 12 hours, I like to pick my seat, and that first free bag is key. But for people who are all about the destination and not the journey this is pretty appealing.”
One thing you’ll start to notice about the destinations: Cheap flights are sure to bring more Americans, as anyone who’s been to Reykjavik or Madrid lately can attest. But if you’re willing to put up with some hassle, this might just be the catalyst you need to book that trip to go island-hopping around Greece or making 10 new friends a night in Dublin. Just make sure to know exactly what you’re getting for the price, and learn how to pack like you’re in the Marines.